Thursday, 28 March 2013

Resignations from Sheffield SWP

SWP Central Committee,

We are hereby resigning our memberships of the SWP. We’re sure you've read enough of these by now to realise that we're all going for similar reasons, but we’re going to explain once more in the hope that at some point you'll realise what you're doing to this organisation and do something to rectify it.

Some of us have been in the SWP for many years, others have been members since the student movement of 2010. This may not seem long to those of you who have been in for decades, and perhaps you will think you can just recruit new students when they arrive on campus, but once upon a time we believe the line was that every member was 'gold dust'. It's a shame that this no longer seems to be the case.

We are resigning because we cannot defend the catastrophe you have created. We considered waiting until next conference and proposing a slate with none of you on it, but we have come to realise that this would make no difference. You have killed a once brilliant organisation. The SWP’s reputation is in tatters, no credible anti-sexist will touch us with a barge pole, and the degeneration in the conduct of debate over the few weeks has been soul-destroying. You ought to write a thank you letter to the original 30 comrades who formed the IDOOP faction, for they are responsible for at least 540 members remaining in the organisation since National Committee. Those 540 were the most inspirational, principled, determined, brilliant comrades you will ever have the pleasure of working alongside, and you should be fighting with every core of your being to ensure that any who remain stay inside the organisation. You could learn a lot from them.

The response of the CC to the concerns raised by a huge layer of membership has been staggeringly inept. We won't be able to list all of the mistakes, but these are the ones that spring to mind. In each case we have added a suggestion for what we think should have been the alternative course of action; we sincerely hope you will take this on board:
  • Refusing to arrange a commission to investigate and review our disputes processes as this is 'going against conference decisions' (followed by the addition into the CC motion of the review of disputes processes)
    you should have: not refused, but set up the commission at national conference, avoiding this entire fucking mess
  • Accusing the factions of being apolitical because they failed to mention UtR/UAF/crisis of capitalism in an argument about the handing and fallout from a disputes case 
    you should have: not done this and attempted to win the argument about the issue at hand - the handling and fallout from a disputes case
  • Passing around of the Facebook conversation which was the excuse for the expulsions of the 'Facebook four' around select individuals in our district 
    you should have: not passed it around attempted to win the argument about the issue at hand - the handling and fallout from a disputes case
  • Allowing the women (yes, there were two women, unless you're a bureaucrat who needs an official box ticking to recognise a complaint) to be smeared as police spies, liars, trojan horses, politically suspect. Allowing their districts to ostracise, bully, intimidate, exclude and insult them by denying all knowledge of it.
    you should have: maintained regular contact with both women to ensure they were being supported through a very traumatic experience, visited their districts regularly and in no uncertain terms condemned the above behaviour with promise of disciplinary action for anyone who continued in this manner, on the grounds that this is extremely reactionary, sexist behaviour which should not be tolerated in any organisation that prides its record on fighting sexism. 
  • Attempting to convince our organiser to overrule a vote in order to stop one of us, an ex-faction member, getting elected onto district committee
    you should have: not done this and attempted to win the argument about the issue at hand - the handling and fallout from a disputes case
  • Denying that our work outside of the party has been severely affected (generally by citing numbers of papers sold) and that our reputation is in tatters among the wider left
    you should have: not denied this, but thought about what this meant, and considered a constructive approach to repairing damaged relationships - note, you should still do this
  • Deliberately misrepresenting the IDOOP faction, (suggesting that comrades such as Ian Birchall, Mike Gonzalez, Pete Gillard etc have waited decades to reveal that they are in favour of permanent factions) 
    you should have: not done this and attempted to win the argument about the issue at hand - the handling and fallout from a disputes case 
  • Creating the bogeymen, Richard Seymour and China Mieville, in order to obscure the argument 
    you should have: not done this and attempted to win the argument about the issue at hand - the handling and fallout from a disputes case
  • Asking comrades to sign a loyalty statements to the CC (before realising you had less support than the faction and conveniently never mentioning it again) 
    you should have: not done this, and attempted to win the argument about the issue at hand - the handling and fallout from a disputes case
  • Passing around of our organiser’s resignation letter to the CC to select individuals in our district 
    you should have: not passed it around and instead attempted to win the argument about the issue at hand - the handling and fallout from a disputes case
  • Suggesting that for the faction to call for Comrade Delta to cease to represent the party for the foreseeable future is 'going against conference decisions' (followed by the 'political decision' for Comrade Delta to cease to represent the party for the foreseeable future)
    you should have: not suggested this, and accepted that we were correct, admitted a mistake and gone ahead with ceasing his representative and paid roles
  • Blaming party members for the fact that a list of academics and trade unionists have raised concerns 
    you should have: not blamed party members (it is patronising to those who signed to say they did not make that decision themselves, whoever organised it) but thought about what this meant, and considered a constructive approach to repairing damaged relationships - note, you should still do this
  • Allowing members of the IDOOP faction to be treated with utter contempt, suspicion and hostility
    you should have: not allowed this, it is the primary reason that many members have left. This is unforgivable  It is your responsibility as the leadership to ensure that comrades are treated with respect, are not shouted down, are not ostracised, bullied, ignored, smeared and excluded.  You should have followed up every complaint, and ensured that comrades knew that their behaviour was unacceptable and would not be tolerated. Conduct in this debate has been despicable, and you have done nothing.
  • Using phrases like "You were defeated!" and "Show some humility!" when talking on the phone to ex-IDOOP members when they tell you they are thinking of leaving the organisation
    you should have: remembered that every member is gold dust, and attempted to engage in a constructive discussion of concerns
  • Removing party employees from their positions based on their involvement in the disputes case/their votes at conference/their involvement in the factions
    you should have: not done this. Always to remember to think about what you are doing and how it might look to the membership and the outside world.
  • Using the phrase "This is not a cover-up" when issuing public statements
    you should have: not done this. If you are being accused of a cover up, you must patiently explain why it is not a cover up, with credible justifications, not empty phrases.
  • Finally, when a union is putting out a statement regarding safety of oppressed groups in the labour movement suggesting amendments that state that we 'do not presume innocence or guilt'*, 
    you should have: not done this, and instead congratulated the union for it's progressive stance on supporting survivors of sexual violence


  • We hope you find this list helpful. We noticed that you seemed to be having difficulty recognising and admitting mistakes, and thinking of alternative courses of action, so we hope this alleviates that issue.

    Regards,

    Rosie Warren (Sheffield North Branch, South Yorkshire District Committee, University of Sheffield SWSS, University of Sheffield Palestine Society Committee, NUS)

    Tom Maguire-Wright (Sheffield North Branch, University of Sheffield SWSS President, NUS)

    Alison Worsley (Sheffield North Branch, University of Sheffield SWSS, NUS)

    Patrick McNeill (Sheffield North Branch, University of Sheffield SWSS, NUS)

    Isra Jawdat (Sheffield North Branch, University of Sheffield SWSS, University of Sheffield Palestine Society Treasurer, NUS)

    Neill Grant (Sheffield North Branch, Sheffield North Branch Committee, University of Sheffield SWSS, NUS)

    Ben Wadsworth (Sheffield North Branch, Unite)

    Christian Hill (Sheffield South Branch, Sheffield South Branch Committee/Paper Organiser, Unite Community)

    Kieran Boden (Sheffield South Branch, Hallam University SWSS, NUS)

    Jenny Evans (Sheffield South Branch, University of Birmingham SWSS, NUS)

    The following people have already resigned individually for similar reasons but would also like to add their names to this statement:

    Matt Hale (Sheffield South Branch, Unite Community, Sheffield Trades Council)

    Andrew Gallacher (Sheffield North Branch, University of Sheffield SWSS, NUS)

    Aidan Barlow (Sheffield North Branch, University of Sheffield SWSS, NUS)

    Matt Bond (Sheffield South Branch)

    Jackson Baines (Sheffield South Branch)

    Gina Elby (Doncaster Branch, Unite Community)

    Rhys Lloyd (Doncaster Branch)

    Martin (Sheffield South, NUT)

    *The final point, for those who are unaware, is in reference to the Unison women’s statement
    The CC were informed about the statement published, and about several comrades being approached to sign it. In response, the CC proposed the following amendments (highlighted in bold):

    “We recognise the enormous challenges faced by women victims of male violence, and the pressures which women face, including from abusive men, not to complain about violence and abuse. We therefore believe that, when women complain of male violence within our movement, our trade unions and political organisations should start from a position of believing women but without making presumptions about guilt or innocence."

    "We believe that all women who complain of male violence have the right to be listened to and supported, and to have their complaints properly and sympathetically investigated through due process .”  

    The amendments were immediately rejected with comments attacking the Party.

    The CC position then became that no comrade should sign the statement.

    8 comments:

    1. Actually the CC was right on the final point, women who suffer violence deserve our full support, but presumption of innocence and the right to a full investigation are both absolute lines in the sand for socialists.

      It appears genuine anger about the CCs ridiculous behaviour over the comrade delta affiar is showing in acts of irrationality across the left, this is understandable but must be resisted.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. How can one both "start from a position of believing women" and have a "presumption of innocence" Jonathon, aren't those two statements a contradiction? Believing the woman implies that we believe that she is telling the truth, and that what she is saying happened to her, did in fact happen. (Surely this is the line in the sand for socialists, given the context of so very, very few women lying about sexual assault, and so many, many people refusing to believe them?) Presumption of innocence (I assume you mean on the part of the accused) suggests that what she is saying did not happen to her, and she is therefore lying. One cannot both believe the woman, and presume the man is innocent.

        I would argue, though, that the point here is not that the CC is inherently wrong about the right to an investigation (although their interpretation of properly and sympathetically clearly differ from mine) but that to propose such amendments to an otherwise excellent, and progressive statement (a statement that in any other context the SWP would not only sign but proclaim as a victory in the fight against women's oppression) does not reflect positively on their commitment to the fight against sexual violence, and is a big mistake in the current climate.

        I hope you'll find that a 'rational' response, because I for one have no intention of 'resisting' the urge to believe survivors of sexual violence.

        Delete
      2. Of course people can have different interpretations off a situation and yet neither is lying, have you never supported anyone through a traumatic situation yet known there interpretation of events is not quite how you remember it? I have, all the time, I never call them liars because they are not.

        The final paragrapgh is so obviously deliberatly misinterpreting what I said that it is not worth responding to, it reminds me in fact of the way the CC often dealt with questions at Marxism - just re-interpret the question and then attack the questioner for being soft on x, y or z.

        Delete
      3. You can take the student out of the SWP, but not the SWP out of the student.

        You are right, the SWP would have supported the UNISON statement because it had got into the habit of pandering to causes of the moment, not because it is a good statement. They are opposing it for the wrong reasons, you are supporting it for the wrong reasons, basically both are sectarian positions, both fall into the IS tradition we are supposedely all so proud of. UNISON will use this statement to attack the left, just as they used some excellent (better than this statement) anti racism stuff to attack SP members, while allowing the racist persecution of a North Eastern trade unionist - who incidentally sided strongly with comrade delta throughout this crisis.

        The loser is the left in total, and more importantly the rapidly receding oppotunties for resistance to the tories all out assault.

        Delete
    2. fallingrateofprophet4 April 2013 at 01:27

      A great summary of what's happened so far and how it could have been avoided. Solidarity from Canada.

      ReplyDelete
    3. Is the ironically named SWP, starting to show cracks of a break up yet? and all the other empty headed dreamers that support this nonsense?

      ReplyDelete
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